Simple Clock From Tiny Chip

If you haven’t jumped on the ESP8266 bandwagon yet, it might be a good time to get started. If you can program an Arduino you have pretty much all of the skills you’ll need to get an ESP8266 up and running. And, if you need a good idea for a project to build with one of these WiFi miracle chips, look no further than [Ben Buxton]’s dated, but awesome, NTP clock.

While the ESP8266 started out as an inexpensive, reliable way to get WiFi capability on essentially anything (and paving the way for a plethora of Internet of Things projects), it was quickly hacked to become a fully programmable development board that can stand on its own. To that end, [Ben] has recognized its capability to run a very minimalistic NTP clock. The standard C++/Arduino environment is available, so he didn’t have to learn any new skills. The parts list is stripped down as well: besides the ESP8266, there’s little more than the four-part seven-segment display. There’s even an Arudino library for these chips that [Ben] made great use of. From there, it’s just a matter of wiring it all up and syncing it with an NTP server.

While it’s not the most involved hack ever, it’s good to be reminded that these chips are cheap and readily available for literally anything that you could imagine. If you haven’t started yet, there’s no reason not to. You can use them to control something like an irrigation system, or if you’re even more adventurous, they can run a 3D printer, too.

Thanks [Itay] for the tip!

15 thoughts on “Simple Clock From Tiny Chip

    1. Meh, I’ve been wanting to do this since late last year, parts I ordered in March haven’t turned up yet, gave up and ordered an oled display last week, waiting for that to get shipped.

  1. The NTP Pool is being ABUSED by this mindless IoT march to Failure! And let’s not even talk about SECURITY when getting authoritative time! The IoT Minions have no CLUE when it comes to security.

    Unless you Makers are Responsibly running (Responsibly means a Lot) at-least a relatively secure and regularly updated NTP Client device on your LAN (forget about Serving time!), do NOT do what this person is doing. Chinese SoHo/Consumer router manufacturers have been abusing the open NTP Pool for a long time, Let’s be better than them…

    1. For those of us that are ignorant of such issues what are some ways to simply avoid the issue.

      For most of us that build stupid IOT devices for what ever reason are interested in the the end product and most of the time it’s a case of ” This idea just popped into my head can I build it ” ( yes I’ve watched to many episodes of bob the builder)

      Build a proof of concept and hey it works or doesn’t now what do I need to consider with security.

      If we considered ALL the failings and concerns at the beginning nothing would ever get built.

      I agree security is VERY important but most people (myself included) don’t understand the security implications especially at the point when we don’t even know if the idea would work.

      It’s not a modern issue – even the first push bikes didn’t have brakes. The idea of the bike was to make things go not stop. ( Im Glad they have breaks now but they came about as a an iterative design change)

    2. While I agree with your post by the most part, it’s already too late!

      The legacy model we have for security comes from the existence of the internet which was never designed from the ground up as a secure environment.

      Security was an afterthought and it was “added” to a non-secure model by way of blacklisting rather than being designed from the beginning with white listing.

      The problem with black listing is that it is dependent on hackers to exploit vulnerabilities so that those vulnerabilities can be black listed in the first instance.

      Or in other words the mode of the internet is always “failed security” or “eminent security failure” and never the desired mode “secure”.

      It would make a great deal of sense to create a white list API for IoT now that everything is still in flux but it wont happen because most people follow the existing failed models of security simply because they don’t understand that the existing models are a worst case model.

    3. Hi, author of the clock featured here! Cool to see it on the front page; it’s still the feature clock in my kitchen.

      The web server on this clock allows the NTP server IP to be specified, and I use my own local NTP server, avoiding adding load to the public pool.

      So yes, please do what I’m doing and configure your devices with alternative NTP sources.


      1. Congrats.
        I will dig into your code to enhance my project.

        I made a similar project earlier this year with Esp8266 also using NTP protocol to get the time.
        I used a led display savaged from a set-top box found in the street. I’m using OasisLED library (as my 7-segments display has a PT6961 driver)

        As my esp module has some features (RGB LED and light sensor), with the time I added a visual notification to alert me when light amount on my desk is too weak, so I should switch on the desk lamp for the sake of my eyes.

        Note: I also use NTP source from my LAN, from my router (Ubiquiti EdgeRouter) which do act as NTP server ;)

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